There are innumerable diets that you might have known and heard of but you don’t know them all. Yes, there are certain diets that are lesser-known but beneficial for health and flexitarian diet is one of them. This semi-vegetarian diet is only good without any side-effects like other fad diets. One of the top dieticians in New Delhi and owner of Fisico Diet Clinic, Dt. Vidhi Chawla shares her insight on the Flexitarian diet and why it might be good for you.
What is Flexitarian Diet?
‘Flexitarian’ means a combination of ‘flexible’ and ‘vegetarian’. The diet emphasises the potential health and environmental benefits of vegetarianism while allowing people to consume moderate amounts of meat and other animal products. The flexitarian diet is a semi-vegetarian diet that includes small amounts of animal products. According to emerging data, the flexitarian diet can have benefits such as better metabolic health indicators, lower blood pressure, and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Flexitarians get the bulk of their calories from bananas, legumes, whole grains, and vegetables. When it comes to nutrition, they consume mainly plant-based sources (e.g., soy foods, legumes, nuts, and seeds), with a small amount of animal protein (e.g. dairy, seafood and meat). Finally, it is recommended that you limit the number of calories you consume from added sugars and candy.
Health benefits of flexitarian diet
Whether a diet is good or bad, only benefits can tell. The easiest way to judge
are as follows.
1. Decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease
Eating more plant-based foods can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. This study of plant-based foods and the prevention of cardiovascular disease discovered evidence from prospective cohort studies that “a high intake of primarily plant-based foods, such as fruit and vegetables, nuts, and whole grains, is associated with a substantially lower risk of CVD.” These plant-based nutrients are believed to have protective effects due to the many beneficial nutrients in these foods, including mono- and multi-saturated fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, minerals, phytochemicals, fibre and vegetable protein.
2. Weight loss
The flexitarian diet is primarily based on certain concepts that can produce positive results in no time if practised. A useful way to integrate the flexitarian diet into your workout routine would be to fill your plates with whole grains, fruits and vegetables. People who adopt a plant-based diet appear to lose more weight than those who do not, according to previous research. A survey of over 1100 people found that those who followed a vegetarian diet for 18 weeks lost two kilograms more than those who did not.
Other studies, however, have shown that those who adopt vegan diets are more likely to lose the most weight as compared to vegetarians and non-vegetarians. The flexitarian diet, which is more similar to a vegetarian diet than a vegan diet, may aid in weight loss, but not as much as a purely vegan diet would. Since the flexitarian diet restricts high-calorie and refined foods, requiring you to consume more plant foods that are naturally lower in calories, it boosts instant weight loss and belly fat loss.
3. Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is one of the most common disorders, affecting millions of people worldwide. Following a vegetarian diet makes it easier to manage this chronic health condition. What you need to know is to keep track of how much carbohydrates you eat. Plant-based diets are rich in fibre and low in unhealthy fats and sugar, resulting in weight loss. According to one study, the incidence of type 2 diabetes is lower in Flexitarians than in non-vegetarians.
4. Reduces the risk of cancer
A Flexitarian diet that incorporates vegetarian foods can reduce your risk of cancer. Eating antioxidant-rich foods such as legumes, whole grains, seeds, vegetables, fruits, and nuts may help prevent cancer. People who eat a semi-vegetarian diet are less likely to develop colorectal cancer than non-vegetarians. In a wide U.S. analysis of various types of vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets, people categorised as "semi-vegetarian" who consumed meat and fish up to once a week showed little difference in overall cancer risk or risk of specific types of cancer relative to non-vegetarians.
Foods To Eat
After briefing the benefits, let us tell you what foods you can have when following the flexitarian diet. This diet focuses on the consumption of minimally processed plant foods and plant proteins while limiting the intake of animal products. Here is the list of foods to have:
- Proteins: Soybeans, lentils, legumes, tofu
- Non-starchy vegetables: Green beans, Leafy greens, bell peppers, cauliflower, carrots, Brussels sprouts
- Starchy vegetables: Sweet potato, corn, peas, winter squash
- Fruits: Berries, cherries, oranges, apples, grapes
- Whole grains: Quinoa, buckwheat
- Nuts, seeds and healthy fats: Flaxseeds, chia seeds, almonds, cashews, walnuts, pistachios, avocados, coconut, olives, peanut butter
- Plant-based milk substitutes: Soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk
- Herbs, spices and seasoning
- Condiments: Apple cider vinegar, mustard sauce, salsa, low-sodium soy sauce
- Beverages: Tea, coffee, sparkling water
When you switch to animal products, here are the preferred options that you can consider:
- Free-range and organic poultry
- Free-range eggs
- Wild-caught fish
- Grass-fed meat
At the end of the day, we're all human—what matters is that you find the right meal plan for your needs and long-term goals. The flexitarian diet is similar to vegetarianism in that it requires people to consume animal products, such as meat, on occasion. The diet emphasises the consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains while restricting the amount of meat products consumed. If an individual decides to adopt the flexitarian diet, it might be best to start slowly and make gradual changes. They can also consult with a dietician about any questions they might have. Flexitarian diets are easy to follow, healthy, perfect for weight loss, better for the environment, and better for you overall. When you limit your consumption of highly processed foods and instead opt for plant-based foods, you will find that you feel much better during the day and sleep better at night. Sleep deprivation may have far-reaching consequences, including lowered susceptibility to the common cold. Following a flexitarian diet plan has no specific guidelines because it is more of a lifestyle option than a dietary modification and is a common choice among many fitness enthusiasts.
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